PARLIAMENT, August 31 – Jack Devnarain, better known as Rajesh Kumar in the South Africa soapie Isidingo, lobbied for the rights of performing artists as he was interviewed for a position on the public broadcaster board on Thursday by MPs.
Devnarain, who is also chairman of the South African Guild of Actors (SAGA), said he believed contracts the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has with independent producers and performing artists needed to be reviewed.
The SABC, he said could play a major role in advancing performing arts in the country and as well as contributing to the economy.
“We haven’t even begun to understand the true potential of arts and culture as an actual commodity in this economy,” said Devnarain.
He cited international productions being filmed in South Africa and not a single South African being cast as a “singular embarrassment”.
While he conceded he still had much to learn, Devnarain believed the SABC could be brought out of crisis by stopping “party political contamination”.
Rajesh was trending on twitter in South Africa as MPs, many of them Isidingo fans, constantly referred to him by his character’s name on Isidingo.
When it was time for African National Congress MP Mziwamadoda Kalako to ask his question, he quipped: “I almost said Rajesh because Isidingo is my favourite soapie. I only watch South African soapies.”
Kalako’s colleague Mondli Gungubele also appeared to be starstruck.
“Can I call you Rajesh….you make us late for work sometimes,” Gungubela said to the smiling actor.
As the interview ended and Devnarain walked out of the room, one MP could be heard whispering to him: “What happens next on Isidingo?”
Former Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) councillor Nomvuyiso Batyi categorically denied to MPs she was offered the post of chairwoman of the regulatory body in exchange for giving a Gupta-owned company a free-to-air tv licence.
Batyi was being interviewed as a candidate for the board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) by Parliament’s portfolio committee on communications when an MP put it to her that she was corrupt.
“I am not corrupt, I will never be corrupt. I hold myself highly,” she responded.
She explained that she had received a letter from then Communications Minister Faith Muthambi’s office offering her the position of chairwoman, but insisted there were no conditions attached.
“When I received the letter…it was December  and at that point I didn’t know who was bidding for Icasa licence,” Batyi said.
She denied threatening the minister, saying she had sought to take legal action over the offer of chairwoman never materialising. However, she had to abandon her court bid because she could not afford the legal fees which was quoted at R250,000.
Last year the Sunday Times reported that Batyi refused to licence the Gupta-owned Infinity Media Network, which jeopardised her career advancement.